Why Solar Probe Plus?
We live in the sun's atmosphere! This mission will provide insight on a critical link in the Sun-Earth connection. Data will be key to understanding and, perhaps, forecasting space weather.
We need to go so close because:
- the corona is unstable, producing the solar wind, flares and coronal mass ejections – we need to study at the source!
- millions of tons of highly magnetized material can erupt from the sun at speeds of several million miles an hour – fast enough to get from Washington to LA in seconds!
Why is the corona hotter than the surface? Why is there a solar wind?
We can only answer these questions by getting up close and personal with our star
The concept for a "Solar Probe" dates back to "Simpson's Committee" of the Space Science Board (National Academy of Sciences, 24 October 1958).
The need for extraordinary knowledge of sun from remote observations, theory, and modeling to answer the questions:
- Why is the solar corona so much hotter than the photosphere?
- How is the solar wind accelerated?
The answers to these questions have been of top priority in multiple Roadmaps and Decadal Surveys.
We live in the atmosphere of the sun.
Physics of the corona and inner heliosphere connect the activity of the sun to the environment and technological infrastructure of Earth will:
- drive the fundamental physics of the heliosphere, aurora, and magnetosphere of Earth and other planets
- help us improve satellite communications, power grid issues, pipeline erosion, radiation exposure on airline flights, astronaut safety
Until we can explain what is going on up close to the sun, we will not be able to accurately predict space weather effects that can cause havoc at Earth.